Oracle’s High BI Bar: Managed, Multifaceted and Actionable

Oracle’s newest BI release is massive, spans multiple product categories, and raises the bar for competitors in dramatic fashion. In my prior post I focused on its rollout and competitive posture. The market has waited a long time as the reconciliation of many moving parts was accomplished – most notably the convergence of the Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) offering and Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE). Hyperion integration with its Essbase acquisition was not complete. In 2007, OBI’s newest release (10.1.3) was most notable in many eyes for its new Microsoft Office support. PeopleSoft and Siebel had been acquired some two years before that, and Master Data Management was already a topic of discussion then (2005). There was a long way to go. And analysts? Well, think of us as the kids in the back: “Are we there yet?”

Oracle has used its time, and its $3B per year investment in R&D, well. OBIEE 11g delivers a strong base for its customers to build upon, and for its own teams to continue fleshing out a very coherent vision of ready-to-consume, actionable analytics suitable for multiple roles, on multiple platforms, across the breadth of information available. Although there is much left to do, Oracle has laid out a clear path and articulated a differentiated message that offers ample reasons for anyone on other platforms to consider OBIEE, whether or not they are an Oracle customer. For this analyst, the big wins are the Common Enterprise Information Model, The Action Framework, the strong manageability focus, unified and enhanced user interaction for report and other forms of design and delivery, and BI applications.

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Oracle Sets Sights on BI Leadership. Has it Picked the Right Target?

Oracle is not first in BI, and wants to change that – that was the clear message of a well executed, multi-site “real plus virtual” event with top executives showing off the result of a multi-year effort to rationalize and integrate a set of leading but overlapping components into a seamless suite. Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g (OBIEE) deserves the accolades it has already received from analysts who welcomed its announcement – it makes bold and serious bets on effective centralized metadata administration, data integration/ unification and optimized analytic architecture, collaboration, globalization, mobile device support, and a powerful link to action that will be most effective (unsurprisingly) with its own business applications. While it misses some pieces – fully integrated in-memory processing, SaaS and cloud support among them – these will be forthcoming, and Oracle is clearly committed to a quicker release cycle now that the thorny internal politics around legacy products seem to be resolved. But its competitive focus may be misdirected; while SAP is still ahead in market share, IBM is the bigger threat in the marketplace.

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Oracle Ups EPM Ante

After a 2 year wait, Oracle is rolling out some fruits of its daunting integration efforts in enterprise performance applications. New suite bundles, an Essbase connector and Hyperion uplift are highlights of its Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) 11.1.2 release. The numbering scheme, evidently constrained by the overall Oracle level 11 nomenclature, drove the understated “11.1.2” moniker, but make no mistake, this is a major thrust – delivered in 15 languages and with a new focus on role-based thinking. The task-specific and vertical themes that dominate developments in enterprise applications were on display here as Oracle delivered Financial Close Management, Disclosure Management, and Public Sector Planning and Budgeting applications atop the Fusion Middleware platform that is the basis for further product portfolio integration in the quarters ahead. The architectural value of the Business Intelligence Foundation here cannot be overstated; Oracle is delivering on a well-thought-out model that facilitates a steady growth in product opportunities that will drive incremental revenues. Read more of this post

My Best Decision Today: Skipping Larry’s Fusion Speech

It’s been a good Oracle Open World so far, unless you wanted some exciting news about Fusion Apps. All the cyberworld was a-twitter (pun intended) about that during the run-up to the event. If that’s what you wanted, sorry – the payoff couldn’t have been flatter if the Governator had run over it with one of his Hummers. (More likely his wife would have done it while illegally talking on her cell phone.) There was a great theme this year: “Come With Questions. Leave With Answers.” Yup. And the answer was: “Wait till next year.” Read more of this post

Star Analytics Offers Flexible Real-time Data Integration to Hyperion Users

There are riches in the data stored inside over 5000 installed Hyperion performance management applications, and Star Analytics is committed to helping its customers exploit them more broadly. Tom Tortolani, VP of Products, sees this as Star Analytics’ great opportunity – he’s watched as the installation, maintenance and exploitation of the data in such applications has become more complex and unwieldy, even as more non-specialists clamor for access to that data.

More IT involvement for business performance applications is required all the time,” Tortolani says, “even though it’s business users driving demand. The industry needs to make it easier for them.” Read more of this post

Oracle, Sleeves Rolled Up, Flexes EPM Muscles

It’s been a while since Oracle made the series of acquisitions that redrew the map on applications software, and they have been fairly successful there. The broadening of the portfolio created considerable challenges for the rationalization of Oracle’s BI strategy, and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Paul Rodwick and Bill Guilmart, VPs of Product Management, to catch up on the Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) story so far. We analysts are quick to criticize the pace of integration, the level of detail, and the timing of the roadmap from companies with enormous portfolios like Oracle’s. Personally, I’m glad I don’t have to live every day with the consequences of my brilliant ideas about how to rationalize all those moving parts. (Remember those ads? “We don’t do. We just advise.”) Paul and Bill must live with theirs, and I was impressed with the clarity and consistency of the model they described to me. It’s a good story, with emerging successes in abundance, and the best may be yet to come. Read more of this post

It’s On: IBM To Acquire SPSS

With one stroke, IBM has signalled that it believes itself ready to redraw the BI map. After a multi-year, multi-billion dollar spending spree, IBM has assembled the product portfolio, marketing and sales organization, and a 4000-person services army to launch a full-scale assault. It’s a lucrative opportunity: Mary Weier at InfoWeek quotes IDC to the effect that in 2008, the total BI market grew 10.6% to $7.8 billion. But although IBM’s acquisition of Cognos made it a formidable presence, with around 10% of the total market, until now it seems to largely have been in a holding pattern. IDC says IBM’s 2008 BI revenues were $800 million, up 5% since the previous year. But key competitors  SAP and SAS, who are ahead of IBM in share, and Oracle, nipping at its heels, grew at  double-digit rates. It is time to for IBM up that ante; as strong as Cognos was, it ought to have benefited more from IBM’s muscle. And now, it’s on. Read more of this post

Aster Data Systems: Specialty DBMSs Will Change the Market

In a market suddenly awash with new analytic DBMS entrants, Aster Data Systems differentiates itself with an aggressive posture: in-database computations, MapReduce integration and commodity hardware. Like several other firms I’ve talked to recently, the San Carlos-based vendor has a Big Customer (mySpace), a Recent Launch (May 2008) and a Core Team of Hotshots with industry experience. They have been quick out of the gate, and boast 15 customers who are tackling “frontline data warehousing” for problems they could not solve any other way.

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Tableau Software: Visibly Catching On and Catching Up

Data visualization specialist Tableau Software spent some time with us this week talking about where they’ve come from and where they are going. After early project work for the DoD, founder Pat Hanrahan and his PHD student Chris Stolte joined forces with Jock MacKinlay, who spent some time at Xerox PARC. They spun out of Stanford in early 2003, and launched into a steady run of growth. With $5m in early funding, they’ve run conservatively – “cash flow even,” Marketing VP Elissa Fink calls it – ever since, and just celebrated 16 straight quarters of beating the prior quarter’s number. Read more of this post